Country Conditions: Treatment Of Evangelicals In Russia
Author: Alena Shautsova
Unfortunately, religious minorities are mostly targets of indiscreet human right violation in Russia. With the ban on Jehovah's Witnesses, Evangelicals in recent times have been the most targeted.
Freedom of religion is a right that accrues to everyone and should be exercised unrestrictedly. So long as a person's belief system is not detrimental to another person, then the believer should be allowed to practice without any form of disturbance. But this is not the case in Russia. By and large, the Russian government has gotten into the habit of stating the modus operandi for practicing faith. Dictating what is acceptable and what is not. What faith should be practiced freely and what faith shouldn't. This chaotic authoritarianism in matters of faith has led to the subjection of the religious faithful to various forms of ill-treatment.
What could be the cause for this act by the Russian government? Is religion a threat to societal order?
Early Evangelicals In Russia
Evangelicalism has been prominent in Russia since the 19th century. Needless to say that it is near impossible to authoritatively denote the originality of evangelicalism in Russia. But it is mostly agreed that like wood and matches, the originality of Russian evangelicalism goes hand-in-hand with foreign influences. While modern-day evangelicals in Russia have their movement deeply rooted in Russian culture, it can be traced to early foreign influences.
Notable amongst the early indigenous Russian evangelical movements are; the Molokans, the Stundists, the Baptists, the Pashkovites, and the Mennonite Brethren. Most of these, although bearing little traces of foreign influences, were fully Russian.
The Molokans who liked to call themselves "truly spiritual Christians," were separatists from the Doukhobor movement. They were meticulous in the study of the Bible and referred to it as containing the basis for salvation. Aside from studying the Bible, they believed it was necessary to put biblical truth into practice. The evangelical movement was fully Russian in origin.
Stundist is derived from the German word Stunde. Stunde refers to a special time of gathering to study the Bible. This was a pattern of living for Stundists whose gatherings were referred to as the "Gathering of Stunde." They were known to gather at a specific time to study the Bible, sing hymns, and pray. With no clear definition, this set of evangelicals were mostly inter-denominational believers seeking Bible truths. This practice of Stunde was pioneered by the German theologian Philipp Spener. Stundists were known for a complete reformation of character traits. They were known for being pious and devout, abstaining from alcohol, smoking, swearing, not offending others, and not taking oaths.
The Russian Baptists known for their disciplinary strictness in doctrine were offshoots of the German Baptists. They were largely influenced by Johann Gerhard Oncken- the father of Continental Baptists. Baptists disagree with Stundists in matters of oath-taking and armed services. Baptists were more tolerant in the matter.
Pashkovites, earlier known as Radstockists we're products of the influential teachings of Lord Radstock. The preaching of Lord Radstock was prominent for penetrating the Russian high class. Early members of the Pashkovite evangelicals were well-known Russian aristocrats. Pashkovites, aside from preaching the recognition of one's sins before Christ and faith in Him, were known for their great works of charity. The aristocrats, not minding their social status, were known for preaching the message of salvation in public places.
A resultant effect of the evangelical awakening among German colonists was the Mennonite Brethren. They had a significant influence on the early Russian evangelical movements. The led lives are characterized by simplicity of life, avoidance of luxuries, and adherence to strict moral principles.
Treatments Of Evangelicals In Russia
Reportedly in 2018, a great part of the human rights violations against religious minorities in Russia was aimed at evangelicals. Sometime in 2019, a worship service of Baptist was interrupted by authorities and the 71-year-old pastor was charged with illegal missionary activity.
These acts are mostly perpetrated based on the Yarovaya laws. Although originally called an "anti-terrorism law," this law is seen as a direct attack on religion in Russia. The law deprives non-Orthodox Christians of preaching their faith or engaging in missionary activities and evangelism. As a rule, religious associations are not to share information about their beliefs amongst non-participatory members or aim to preach to convert. Unless they are authorized members of registered groups, no one is allowed to engage in missionary activities or works of evangelism.
The discussion of faith in public places is also discouraged. In January 2019 two members of the Baptist movement were punished for discussing their feet at a bus stop. The punishment according to law for violators is 5,000 rubles for individuals and 50,000 rubles for organizations. The Russian government views the proselytizing of faith as bearing terrorist and extremist tendencies that could be injurious to the State.